EFF: FBI & NIST's tattoo recognition program exploited prisoners, profiled based on religion, gave sensitive info to private contractors

why_tattoos_slide

Dave Maass from EFF says, "Right now, NIST researchers are working with the FBI to develop tattoo recognition technology that police can use to learn as much as possible about people through their tattoos. But an EFF investigation has found that these experiments exploit inmates, with little regard for the research's implications for privacy, free expression, religious freedom, and the right to associate. And so far, researchers have avoided ethical oversight while doing it." Read the rest

Crowdfunding an Atheist Shoe bus to crisscross America

animation (1)

David from Atheist shoes (previously) sez, "We've just been successful in raising money for the first Atheist Shoes Missionary Mobile Shoe Shop, which will criss-cross the USA, selling handmade shoes and spreading our European message of godless comfort and joy. The fund-raising is ongoing, as we aim to get a whole fleet of buses on the road. The first US tour begins in September 2016, and will take in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas." Read the rest

Televangelist Jan Crouch dead at 78 after massive stroke

puff-of-breath-gif
The queen of the world's first mega-sized “prosperity gospel” empire has died.

Read the rest

Meet the robot Buddhist monk

160524130125-china-robot-monk-xianer-xianfan-longquan-temple-exlarge-169
Xian'er is a robotic Buddhist monk that lives at the 1,700 year-old Longquan Temple in Beijing, China. Video below. The temple is host to an animation and maker studio meant to blend technology, science, and spirituality. From CNN:

(Animation studio head and Buddhist master) Xianfan, a graduate of the Chinese Central Art Academy, first conceived Xian'er (Xian stands for virtuous. Er means dumb in Beijing dialect but is a term of endearment) in 2013 as a cartoon character...

(Xian'er) can answer up to 100 questions and a CNN team put him through his paces on a recent visit to the temple.

At first, he didn't seem very co-operative. His head kept spinning around and, like a child, he kept saying: "Leave me alone; stop bothering me."

But when he was in the mood, his Buddhist wisdom shined through:

"Where are you from?" we asked.

"How would I answer a question that you human beings have no answer to?" he quipped.

"Xian'er, who are your parents?" we countered.

"Do the designers count?" was his pithy reply.

Read the rest

Christian teacher arrested for sex in cemetery with 16 year old student

Kelly Aldinger escorted by police officer after arraignment . Image: WFMZ
A subsitute high school teacher in Easton, Pennsylvania was taken into police custody Tuesday and charged with institutional sexual assault after admitting to a judge that she had been having sex with a student since 2015.

Read the rest

Billboard companies reject atheist group's 'Genocide And Incest' ad mocking Noah's Ark theme park

Yep, that's a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark. [ArkEncounter/Youtube]

Remember those funny atheist protest ads mocking a Noah’s Ark-themed amusement park being built in Williamstown, Kentucky? Two billboard companies with no sense of humor have refused to run the atheist group's funny ads ridiculing The Ark Encounter.

Read the rest

Mayor of Jackson, MS: "I believe we can pray potholes away"

056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1057

It's been nearly a year since Tony Yarber, pastor and mayor of Jackson, Mississippi capital and largest city in the state, tweeted that he believed he could pray away potholes, citing Moses's alleged parting of the Red Sea as precedent. Read the rest

Trump says he might let London's muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, visit America

trumppppppp

Magnanimous president-to-be Donald Trump says that despite his proposed ban on muslims entering the U.S., London's new mayor, Sadiq Khan, may be an exception.

“There will always be exceptions,” Mr. Trump said when asked in an interview on Monday how his proposed ban would affect London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. “I was happy to see that,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Khan’s election. “I think it’s a very good thing, and I hope he does a very good job because frankly that would be very, very good.”

Asked why, Mr. Trump said, “Because I think if he does a great job, it will really — you lead by example, always lead by example. If he does a good job and frankly if he does a great job, that would be a terrific thing.”

Khan's having none of it.

He rejected Trump's suggestion that he could be an exception to the proposed Muslim travel ban, saying: "This isn't just about me -- it's about my friends, my family and everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world."

The statement continued: "Donald Trump and those around him think that western liberal values are incompatible with mainstream Islam -- London has proved him wrong."

Read the rest

What a Google News Alert for "Satanic" can teach you

Hero_art2

Religion blogger Fred Clark is fascinated with the urban legends and panic surrounding "satanism," so years ago he set up a Google News Alert for the word "Satanic." Over at Pathos, he posted the funny, ridiculous, and fascinating things he's learned. Here's a sample:

• Every year, dozens of filmmakers try to recapture the magic that made The Exorcist so unsettling. Most fail.

• Pat Boone is still alive.

• The political performance art of the Satanic Temple is both hilarious and pointedly effective. They’re defending the First Amendment the way that we Baptists are supposed to.

• Adolescent legend tripping is happening all the time, every day, somewhere in the English-speaking world.

• Adults who should know better are freaking out and over-reacting to adolescent legend tripping all the time, every day, somewhere in the English-speaking world.

• Censorious adults worried about Kids Today listening to satanic heavy metal aren’t really keeping up with the satanic heavy metal acts trying hardest to gain their condemnation.

• Same goes for video games.

"Things I Have Learned Due to My Google News Alert for the Word ‘Satanic’" (via Daily Grail) Read the rest

Angel turns out to be inflatable sex doll

_89547401_032748103-1

Police in Indonesia investigating reports of an "angel" in a remote village discovered not a supernatural avatar of God's will but a blow-up doll. A fisherman found it floating around after a rare solar eclipse and, well, it's a mistake anyone could make: "The timing of the discovery led some to believe the doll had a divine provenance. They have no internet, they don't know what a sex toy is," the AFP quoted a local police chief as saying. Read the rest

Kennewick Man was Native American

160427-kennewick

After years of speculation and wrangling over his remains, Kennewick Man turns out to be closely related to contemporary, local Native Americans after all.

Discovered near Kennewick, Wash., in 1996, the skeleton ended up in a tug of war between tribes in the pacific northwest who wanted to bury the remains, and scientists who wanted to study them.

Five Pacific Northwest tribes pressed the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the bones, to hand them over in accordance with a federal law on the repatriation of remains. However, a group of scientists sued to block the handover, arguing that the skeleton was not associated with a present-day tribe.

Federal judges sided with the scientists, and as a result, the corps retained custody of the skeleton and made it available for study. Now that the studies are finished, the 380 bones and bone fragments are locked away in Seattle at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Some scientists suggested that Kennewick Man might have been a visitor from the Far North, Siberia or perhaps someplace even more exotic. But when geneticists compared DNA from a hand bone with a wide range of samples, they found that the closest match came from members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The burial site will be a secret, so we can have this fight all over again in a few thousand years. Read the rest

The real story behind Indiana's celebrated attempt to legislate the value of Pi

2016-04-25-podcast-episode-103-legislating-pi

Read the rest

Transhumanist church not much different from any other small town church

church

Motherboard's Claire Evans visited The Church of Perpetual Life, a transhumanist house of worship whose adherents await the time technology brings them into eternity—by curing aging. The strangest thing is that it seems much like any other smalltown Protestant church, right down to the bland off-white architecture, the nice pews, the books on tables, the clean-cut religiosity. It is in Florida.

"We are fighting against involuntary death, and view immortality as the ultimate solution to every problem mankind faces,” said Bill Faloon, one of the church’s founders.

His parishioners call themselves “immortalists.” Other monikers include transhumanists, “longevity enthusiasts,” and “people who really are committed to the anti-aging concept.”

Whatever they call themselves, they all share one thing in common: They believe that science and technology will find a way for humans to live forever on Earth.

Lurking behind it appears to be a foundation at odds with the taxman. (PDF) Read the rest

Interview with a designer of the new Dungeons & Dragons

Michaud-TheTangledCulturalRootsofDungeonsDragons-1200-1

On the always excellent Expanding Mind podcast, we hear from Jeremy Crawford, one of the designers of the new 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

"We discuss identity, the multicultural multiverse, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the sacred absurdity of terrible dice rolls," says host Erik Davis.

Listen here:

Read the rest

A look back at the D&D moral panic

animation (1)

Retro Report did a short feature on the moral panics about D&D in the 1980s. It's a fun, 13 minute look back at the moment when D&D totally changed a bunch of kids' lives, only to be vilified and literally demonized by opportunistic members of the religious right. Read the rest

Southwest Air kicks Muslim woman off plane for switching seats

Southwest_Airlines_new_look_heart

A Southwest Air flight attendant ordered the removal of a woman of Somali descent in a headscarf from a Chicago-Seattle flight after the passenger asked her neighbor if she could switch seats with him. The flight attendant said she "did not feel comfortable" with the passenger onboard. Read the rest

Pope invites Bernie Sanders to Vatican to speak about "social, economic, and environmental" issues

056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1034

Though Sanders says he disagrees with the pope on rights for women and LGBT people, he lauds the pontiff for "injecting a moral consequence into the economy," and so he will speak at the Vatican next week. Read the rest

More posts